Skip to main content

Carolyn Ruppel, PhD

I lead the USGS Gas Hydrates Project, which is jointly funded by the Coastal-Marine Hazards and Resources Program and the Energy Resources Program. Project scientists in Woods Hole, Denver, Menlo Park, and Santa Cruz study natural methane hydrate.  Hydrate is a potential energy resource, has synergies with global climate, and may play a role in some marine geohazards.

My primary research focus is on the interaction between methane hydrates (and methane seeps) on one hand and the ocean-atmosphere system on the other. I focus particularly on the US Atlantic and US Pacific margins, as well as Arctic Ocean margins (US Beaufort Sea and Svalbard). I also work on energy issues related to gas hydrates (including delineating their distribution in marine sediments; 2018 MATRIX seismic program on US Atlantic margin), the coexistence of permafrost (including subsea) and hydrates (Beaufort Sea), and reservoir properties of hydrate-bearing sediments.  As a side specialty, I assist with programmatic environmental compliance for USGS marine acoustics surveys.  During my career, I have also worked on marine heat flow data acquisition and analysis, other aspects of the hydrogeology of gas hydrate systems, and coastal zone hydrogeophysics (particularly tidal pumping, inductive EM data, and saline intrusion in surficial aquifers).  My earliest work focused on numerical modeling of large scale tectonic processes and associated particle tracking, continental rifting, and marine analogs for continental tectonic processes.  

Professional Experience

  • 2010-present: Chief, USGS Gas Hydrates Project

  • 2006-present: Research Geophysicist, U.S. Geological Survey

  • 2006-2019: Visiting Scientist, MIT, Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences

  • 2003-2006: Program manager (faculty rotater), National Science Foundation, Ocean Sciences (MG&G and Ocean Drilling Program)

  • 2000-2002: Coordinator, Georgia Tech Focused Research Program on Methane Hydrates

  • 2000-2006: Associate Professor (tenured) of Geophysics, Georgia Tech

  • 1994-2000: Assistant Professor of Geophysics, Georgia Tech

  • 1992-1993: Postdoctoral Scholar and Postdoctoral Research, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Education and Certifications

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ph.D., 1992, Geophysics and Geology (with Marcia McNutt)

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, M.S., 1986, Earth sciences (with Leigh Royden and Kip Hodges)

Affiliations and Memberships

  • Member, Arctic Icebreaker Coordinating Committee (UNOLS), 2015-2020  (ex officio: 2020 - present)

  • Chief Scientist, 8 research cruises (3 Arctic), 2010-2019

  • Member, Advisory Board, University of Tromso, Centre of Excellence for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) 2014-present

  • Strategic Plan Committee, Coastal & Marine Geology Program, USGS, 2014-2019

  • Arctic subgroup (appointed CMGP representative), Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (SOST), OSTP, 2015-16

  • Mentor, Graduate Women at MIT (GWAMIT), 2013-2016

  • USGS Technical lead, NSF-USGS Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Marine Seismics, 2008-2012

  • Lead proponent, IODP Pre-Proposal 797, Late Pleistocene to contemporary climate change on the Alaskan Beaufort Margin (ABM)

  • Lead organizer, Catching climate change in progress, circum-Arctic Ocean drilling workshop, December 2011 (sponsored by US Science Support Program for IODP)

  • Organizer and convener, USGS-DOE Climate-Hydrates workshop, Boston, MA, March 2011

  • Originator and Chair, Gordon Research Conference on Natural Gas Hydrates, inaugural conference held June 2010.

  • Interagency Technical Coordinating Committee, DOE Methane Hydrates R&D Program, 2010-present

  • The Future of Natural Gas, MIT Energy Initiative, affiliated author (methane hydrates), 2008-2011

  • National Research Council, Scientific Ocean Drilling (SOD) review, presentation on Gas Hydrates and SOD, 2010

  • IODP Operations Task Force, 2008-2009

  • IODP Science Planning Committee (SPC), 2006-2009

  • Organizer, DOE-USGS Symposium/Meeting on Gas Hydrates and Climate Change (held at MIT), February 2008

Honors and Awards

  • National Science Foundation, Director's Award for Program Management, 2005 (Chixulub seismic program)

  • JOI/USSAC Distinguished Lecturer, Ocean Drilling Program, 1999-2000

Science and Products